Brooke Wilson, Palmyra's senior catcher, has set the tone for the Lady Panthers run to the Class 2 quarterfinals.
Brooke Wilson is not the fastest player on the Palmyra softball team. The Lady Panthers catcher is usually lifted for a courtesy runner every time she reaches base during games. But Thursday, the senior displayed unusual speed.
Baylee Anderson was struck with a ball during practice and fell to the ground.
After checking on Anderson, Wilson sprinted off the field and across the street at Flower City Park for a bag of ice.
Never mind it was her best friend lying on the ground in pain, Wilson was just displaying what a team leader does.
“She’s just such a great role model,” Lady Panthers coach Jill Arch said. “Not just by the way she plays the game on the field, but everything else she does as well.”
Nearly three weeks ago it was Wilson who was injured. The starting backstop took a gruesome collision at the plate. A Canton baserunner got her cleat stuck in Wilson’s throwing hand.
“When I looked down and saw her cleat in my hand, I was like ‘oh no’,” Wilson recalled. “My first thought was my season was over. I thought I broke my hand. I wasn’t even worried about the cut.”
The Lady Panthers had won seven of their last eight games heading into the game and Wilson was hitting over .500 on the season. While in the hospital she had a couple prayers.
“I was praying it wasn’t my last game,” she said. “We were having a good season and that is not how I wanted to finish.”
Shocked to see their senior leader leave the field, Palmyra went on to lose the game 7-4. Two nights later, the Lady Panthers fell to Troy, 10-0.
“The girls took it hard,” Arch said of the rest of her teammates seeing her injured. “Brooke is their leader and you could tell they didn’t know how to react at first.”
Fortunately for the Lady Panthers, the lost feeling did not last long. The next night, just three days after the injury that required nine stitches, Wilson was back on the field with her teammates.
“It was senior night and for the conference championship, no way I was going to miss that game,” the senior said. “I went and saw a physical therapist before the game and she said as long as I had it taped up good I would be good to play.”
The night of the injury, Wilson’s doctor gave her a choice.
“He told me he could give me a notice of being without sports for 7-10 days or I could chance it,” she explained. “I wanted to play.”
Arch mentioned Wilson’s desire to get back out on the field with her friends and teammates was just another example of her leadership.
“It showed the girls she cares and that she is willing to make a few sacrifices,” the Lady Panthers coach said. “I was nervous for her but told her it was her choice. But her being back out there made the rest of the girls feel good too.”
Wilson admitted she felt nervous in the beginning as well. But the nerves quickly went away.
“I had a play at the plate in the first inning where I had to make a tag,” she said. “I felt good after that.”
Palmyra would go on to lose the game to last year's Class 2 state champions, but it may have been a turning point in the season.
Wilson recorded two hits in the loss and the Lady Panthers let a 5-1 lead slip away. But both Wilson and the team walked away feeling confident.
“The game made us realize we can play with anyone,” Wilson said. “We did have them beat. We had been struggling a bit, but we made improvements and did a lot of good things in that game.”
Most importantly Wilson was able to feel right back at home again, and the Lady Panthers got their leader back.
Palmyra has not lost since.
A win against Bowling Green in the Class 2 state quarterfinals would send the Panthers to a final four appearance. It’s something Wilson has thought about since she started playing with the majority of her teammates eight years ago.
“That is all I could ever ask for is to end my senior year playing in Springfield, Missouri,” she said. “To be there with my teammates and the three other seniors, oh my.”
NOTE: Anderson, who was injured in Thursday’s practice, is OK and is expected to play against Bowling Green on Saturday.